We know that Trim Street in Bath was the last place the Austen ladies- Jane,Cassandra and Mrs Austen- lived while they were in Bath because of the evidence from a letter sent by Mrs Austen to Mary her daughter- in -law. Here is a link to a post that I wrote about it last year.
Their Trim Street home was supposed to be very temporary accommodation in which to stay while they were looking at other properties in which to settle on a more permanent basis. They arrived there in January 1806 but were still there in April, and most probably stayed there till they finally left Bath for Clifton and on to Gloucestershire,Warwickshire and Staffordshire in the summer of 1806.
Mrs Austen’s exasperation with her situation and inability to find more suitable lodging was expressed not only in the tone of her letter but in the way she wrote her address
Trim Street Still
The letter, part of which is quoted in Deirdre Le Faye’s book, Jane Austen: A Family Record, gives some hints of the trials of searching for lodgings which suited both their social aspirations and their much reduced pockets, for at this time Mr Austen had been dead for over a year, and they were very dependant upon the charity of the Austen sons. And remember when the family were first searching for lodgings in Bath in 1801 Jane Austen wrote to Cassandra that
In the meantime she (Mrs Austen- Jfw) assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.
(See Letter to Cassandra Austen, 3rd January 1801)
So…why was Trim Street so exasperating? Well, last summer I had the very enjoyable but slightly odd experience of staying in Trim Street, in a Georgian house rented out as holiday let by a nearby hotel, and may have found some of the reasons which explain Mrs Austen’s desperation to move away.
This view of trim street shows the house where we stayed- on the bottom left by the parked car .It is a typical small, slightly narrow, single fronted Bath town house, and it was rather plainly built with no internal architectural features of note.
But it had been altered into a wonderful suite of holiday accommodation on four floors,with a sleek modern kitchen, roof terrace, shown above, four bedrooms, excellent bathrooms and sitting room.
Above is the entrance hall…
One of the bedrooms….
And the sitting room on the first floor
This is the view from the sitting room looking out onto the most architecturally distinguished part of Trim Street, General Wolfe’s House.He was staying in Bath at this house when Pitt the elder commanded him to lead his famous expedition to Quebec.
The street that runs parallel to Trim Street contains the Royal Mineral Water Hospital, which is now the National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases. It was founded in 1738 and was known as The Mineral Water Hospital. It provided care for the many poor people who flocked to Bath desperate for a cure for their illnesses from either bathing in or drinking the famed mineral waters.This was the other side of the coin to fashionable Bath, the one that Mrs Smith in Persuasion was hovering above in genteel poverty in nearby Westgate Buildings.
As you can see from the map above, Trim Street is surrounded by other streets. When Baht is busy, this is a very busy street with many pedestrians cutting though on their way to the attractions of the main shopping area (then as now) -Bond Street
haunt of Sir Walter Elliot
and, of course…
Milsom Street, home to the status obsessed General Tilney…
are seconds away as are the Pump Room
and the Bath complex and the Abbey.
Perfect for a holiday break today in a rather funkily decorated, restored period house with all modern conveniences… except for some problems that would have been universal then as now.Do allow me to explain….
Trim Street is narrow and has rather tall buildings. As a result the rooms are sunny for a small period of time: once the sun moved over the rooms were not particularly light. Nor are there any views to be had save for other buildings. No trees, no greenery….and for someone like Jane Austen who seemed to crave the countryside, that would have been hard to endure.
And then there was the noise. The result of the tall buildings in a narrow street is that any noise is amplified and even one person walking along it echos intrusively into the house. So…if lots of people are waking around,that equates to a lot of noise. Women walking on metal patterns on the cobbled street would be heard all over the house.
We also found the modern phenomena of Hen Partys and etc meant that we heard revellers into the very early ( or late!) hours of the morning, and most nights we didn’t have any peace until at least 3 a.m. Im sure drunken revellers are not just a 21st century phenomena.
And I could imagine that in the not particularly sanitary early 19th century, the air would not be particularly good in such a confined street……Pongs would hang about.
So,while we relished the thought that we were staying On The Street Where She Lived, and indeed it may even have been in that particular house(!) what we didn’t relish were the sort of inconveniences that I am sure would have been experienced by the Austens. No wonder after four months of living there Mrs Austen was quite desperate to get away…..